Results tagged ‘ Claudio Vargas ’

Lots of moves, plus lineup

Catching up after some trouble at the baggage claim…

— The Brewers voided right-hander Marco Estrada’s optional assignment on Friday and placed him on the Major League 15-day disabled list with shoulder fatigue. Estrada, who was optioned to Triple-A Nashville on Tuesday, must have developed the problem during his time with the Brewers, and Major League rules state that you can’t option down injured players. The Brewers made a similar move earlier this year with righty Josh Butler, who had elbow trouble. 
— Right-hander Claudio Vargas was granted his unconditional release. The Brewers designated Vargas for assignment last weekend to clear a roster spot for Chris Capuano. 
— The Brewers reinstated infielder Mat Gamel from the 60-day DL and formally optioned him to Nashville. Gamel was already with the Sounds as he works back from a right shoulder/upper back injury. This move explains why infielder Adam Heether was waived earlier this week and subsequently claimed by the A’s.
— Oh yeah, there is a game tonight. The Brewers begin a three-game series against St. Louis and manager Ken Macha has left-hander Randy Wolf batting eighth for his second straight start. Here it is:
Rickie Weeks  2B
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Casey McGehee  3B
Jim Edmonds  CF
Corey Hart  RF
George Kottaras  C
Randy Wolf  LHP
Alcides Escobar  SS
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Brewers interested in pitching, but not Dontrelle

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin shot down his first trade rumor of the year on Tuesday, denying that Milwaukee was one of the teams interested in left-hander Dontrelle Willis. The Tigers were reportedly close to trading him to the D-backs.
Detroit designated Willis for assignment over the weekend and the Palm Beach Post reported earlier Tuesday that the Brewers, D-backs, Marlins and Mets had all shown interest. 
“We were laughing about that on the bus,” Melvin said. “We have not contacted him. … I asked my people about [Willis]. We said we would pass. We’re left-handed now [with Chris Capuano, Chris Narveson and Randy Wolf in the starting rotation].” 
They might not have been interested in Willis, but Melvin and his staff are on the lookout for available pitching in the wake of a series of recent promotions that have mined Triple-A Nashville of much of its staff. A more likely target for the Brewers is right-hander Brian Bruney, a reliever who was released by the Nationals on May 25. 
Melvin has also reached out to fellow general managers about right-hander Claudio Vargas, who was designated for assignment by the Brewers on Saturday to clear a spot for Capuano. That move gave the Brewers 10 days to work out a trade involving Vargas. 
“We’ve contacted a number of teams,” Melvin said. “They said they would look into it but we haven’t heard back.”
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Vargas embraces relief role


One outing — one at-bat, really — changed everything for the Brewers’ Claudio Vargas in 2009. 
Before he stared down St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols with the bases loaded on Sept. 3 in St. Louis, Vargas regarded himself as a starter first and a reliever second. But Pujols grounded out, the Brewers held on for a tense, 4-3 win and Vargas’ mindset began to shift. 
“That changed me,” Vargas said before heading home to the Dominican Republic for the winter. “From then on, I was pitching late in the game in those tight situations.” 
He figures to see more of those situations again in 2010. Vargas was scheduled to be in Milwaukee for a Friday afternoon physical, the final step toward finalizing a one-year contract to return to the Brewers in 2010. 
Vargas, 31, has already been on one Brewers Opening Day roster — in 2007 — but he was a starter then. The team reacquired him last July from the Dodgers to pitch in relief, and that’s how they view him moving forward. 
For the first time, that’s fine with the right-hander. 
“When I got back here, they needed me right away in the bullpen,” he said. “I didn’t really make any changes, but in my mind, working out of the bullpen was a little fresh. Now, I know that I’m only pitching out of the bullpen.” 
And pitching pretty well. In 28 games for the Brewers after the July 31 trade (Milwaukee sent Double-A catcher Vinny Rottino to L.A. in the deal) Vargas posted a 1.78 ERA and held opponents to a .175 batting average. 
The switch in his head flipped, he said, in that Sept. 3 game against the Cardinals. The Brewers were trying to hold a 4-2 lead when St. Louis slugger Pujols stepped to the plate with the bases full of Cardinals and two outs. 
Entering the at-bat, Pujols was 9-for-13 with the bases loaded in 2009 and 6-for-15 lifetime against Vargas with three home runs. Vargas engaged in a seven-pitch battle that went on much longer because of three timeouts — one called by Brewers catcher Mike Rivera and the others by Pujols. 
Pujols finally swung at a fastball running in on his hands, and sent a groundout to third baseman Casey McGehee. Vargas went back out for the eighth inning and surrendered a Matt Holliday home run, but the Brewers held on for a one-run win that had the feel of a pennant race. 
Vargas called it, “the most intense moment I’ve been in in the big leagues,” and his manager knew the feeling. 
“Getting Pujols out with the bases loaded, you ought to get a save for that, at least,’ Brewers skipper Ken Macha said. 
“You wouldn’t even know that he wasn’t a reliever before,” said fellow Brewers starter-turned-reliever Carlos Villanueva. “You see his composure, the way he handles the pressure. It sure felt like we were coming out on top every time he’s in there.”  
The save that day was reserved for Trevor Hoffman, who struck out Pujols on three pitches in the ninth inning. Hoffman has already re-signed for 2010, and will be at the back end of a bullpen that features co-set-up men Todd Coffey and LaTroy Hawkins. Vargas projects as a mid- to late-inning option along with right-hander Villanueva and left-hander Mitch Stetter. Returning right-hander David Riske has the inside track on the other available slot. 
Vargas has been burned by the Brewers once before. He was stunned to get released on March 25, 2008 in a move that saved the team close to $3 million. That made last July’s trade back to Milwaukee all the more surprising. 
“But the best thing that happened to me was the trade, because who knows if I ever would have gotten to pitch for the Dodgers,” Vargas said. “It’s not easy, because when you fail with the bases loaded or late in the game, it’s over. But I started to get those opportunities, and I did my best.”
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Brewers say Vargas deal is close

The Brewers believe they are close to bringing back reliever Claudio Vargas on a one-year contract, assistant general manager Gord Ash said Tuesday. 

Vargas, acquired from the Dodgers in July for a second stint with the Brewers, boosted his value by posting a 1.78 ERA in 28 relief appearances down the stretch. He was a Brewers starter in 2007, but the team now views him primarily as a relief option. 

Ash is handling negotiations with agent Martin Arburua and said the Brewers were awaiting formal acceptance of an offer. 

“We’re talking and have been for several weeks,” Ash said. “We’re close. I’ve got what I would describe as a tentative deal with the agent. The agent doesn’t have the A-OK from the player.” 

Vargas, 31, is pitching for Aguilas in the Dominican Winter League. He made his debut on Sunday with 1 1/3 scoreless innings.

Last winter, he signed a Minor League deal with the Dodgers and earned a Major League minimum salary during his time in the big leagues.

The Brewers have 38 players on their 40-man roster and Vargas would make 39. But another player, injured reliever Mark DiFelice, is likely to come off following Saturday’s nontender deadline.


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Still waiting on Wolf

The Brewers’ contingent didn’t just sit around the Winter Meetings on Tuesday waiting around for an answer from Randy Wolf.

While Wolf and his representatives mulled the proposal Milwaukee reportedly made Monday night — multiple reports said it was for three years and something like $30 million — Brewers general manager Doug Melvin met in his suite at the Westin with four or five agents about other pitchers. One of them, according to, was Gregg Clifton, the rep for left-handed starter Mark Mulder, and whether or not agent Scott Boras actually stopped by the suite, Brewers officials at least spent part of their day debating the merits of Mike Gonzalez, the left-handed former Braves closer who will cost his signing team a Draft pick because he’s a Type A free agent who declined arbitration.

The Brewers have also talked about former Cubs closer Kevin Gregg, who is also a Type A free agent but wouldn’t cost a pick because Chicago declined to offer arbitration. At the same time, the team is close to re-signing one of its own free agents, reliever Claudio Vargas.

Vargas and someone like Gregg or Gonzalez would help the Brewers solidify the innings in front of closer Trevor Hoffman, but it’s the early innings of games that continue to dominate the discussions. To that end, the Brewers were waiting to hear back from agent Arn Tellem on Wolf.

Asked whether he had more than one outstanding offer to free agent pitchers, Melvin said. “I would say that we have a narrow focus at this time on the starting pitching group. We have them ranked, we have them listed, because you have to be prepared.

“We’ve done our part,” he added. “We’ll continue to meet. We might meet again [Wednesday] with people.”

Rumors that the Brewers were nearing a deal with Wolf spread quickly as midnight approached on Monday, the first day of these Winter Meetings. Since the Brewers are unlikely to offer the kind of length of contract or dollars that John Lackey is looking for, it made perfect sense that their top target could be Wolf, a 33-year-old who was 11-7 with a 3.23 ERA in 34 starts with the Dodgers last season after signing a one-year deal worth $5 million.

Wolf is another Type A free agent but the Dodgers didn’t offer him arbitration. That fact made him more attractive to the Brewers.

The late-night reports said a deal with Wolf was imminent. Melvin wouldn’t say whether that was the case.

“Deals aren’t done until they’re done,” Melvin said. “I was telling Mark [Attanasio, Milwaukee’s principal owner] the story today today that in Anaheim a few years ago [in 1999, when Melvin was still the Rangers’ GM] we swear we had Todd Zeile signed. All he wanted was a no-trade [clause] in the contract and we didn’t want to give it, and then we finally gave it, but he and [his agents] went to dinner and they came back and told us they were going with the Mets, after we gave them what they wanted. I was ticked.”

Without naming Wolf, Melvin said he thought there was a desire on both sides to leave Indianapolis on Thursday with a resolution. But he has not put a deadline on any offers.


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Melvin expects Counsell & Co. to hit open market

Thursday is the final day for teams to negotiate exclusively with their own free agents, but Brewers general manager Doug Melvin is not anticipating striking any deals before the market opens in earnest.

“No,” he said Wednesday. “I don’t think they want to sign, personally. They want to wait until Friday and hope someone picks up the phone and makes them an offer they never thought they would get.”

Beginning Friday at 12:01 a.m. ET, free agents are free to field those calls from all 30 teams. Before then, during a 15-day window that follows the World Series, other teams can only express general interest but are technically barred from making any offers.

The Brewers have nine outgoing free agents: Outfielders Mike Cameron, Frank Catalanotto and Corey Patterson, infielders Craig Counsell and Felipe Lopez, catcher Jason Kendall and pitchers Braden Looper, Claudio Vargas and David Weathers. Looper and Weathers hit the market after the Brewers declined their options.

Melvin wouldn’t say which of those players he would like to bring back to avoid giving other teams an idea of the Brewers’ thinking. He did say this month that the Carlos Gomez acquisition likely closed the door on Cameron, that the Brewers might not be able to afford Kendall unless he takes a serious pay cut and that the team remains committed to Rickie Weeks at second base, making a Lopez return very unlikely.

Counsell seems the most likely incumbent on the Brewers’ radar but a report this week said that as many as 12 teams had expressed interest. That’s not surprising at all given Counsell’s defensive versatility and his outstanding 2009 season at the plate, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could field multi-year offers.


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Looper, Vargas formally file for free agency

Braden Looper wasted no time in formally filing for free agency, and fellow Brewers right-hander Claudio Vargas was right behind him. 

Both veterans formally filed their paperwork on Friday, meaning all nine of the Brewers’ potential free agents at the start of the offseason are officially on the open market. Outfielders Mike Cameron, Frank Catalanotto and Corey Patterson, infielders Craig Counsell and Felipe Lopez, catcher Jason Kendall and reliever David Weathers all filed previously. 

Earlier Friday, the Brewers declined their half of Looper’s $6.5 million mutual option, choosing instead to pay a $1 million buyout and free $5.5 million more in payroll flexibility. General manager Doug Melvin left open the possibility of re-opening negotiations with Looper at a later date. 

Melvin may also have interested in bringing back Vargas, who was acquired in a July 31 trade with the Dodgers for Double-A catcher Vinny Rottino. Vargas boosted his stock in a late-relief role with the Brewers, appearing in 28 games with a 1.78 ERA. 

Teams have exclusive negotiating rights with their own free agents for 15 days following the World Series. That window closes Nov. 19.

When Looper and Vargas filed for free agency, the Brewers were left with 33 players on their 40-man roster.

Free agency period is on

FAs2.jpg Let the offseason begin.

When the Yankees clinched the World Series on Wednesday night, it kick-started the season after the season for all 30 teams, not to mention the dozens of unattached players looking for new homes. Thursday began a 15-day period for those players to formally file for free agency, during which they may only negotiate with their current team.

The Brewers have seven such players, including two — center fielder Mike Cameron and catcher Jason Kendall — who have been fixtures in the starting lineup in the past two seasons. The other players eligible to file are outfielder Frank Catalanotto, infielder Craig Counsell, second baseman Felipe Lopez, outfielder Corey Patterson and pitcher Claudio Vargas.

Two others must wait to learn whether they will join the free agent pool. The Brewers have 10 days after the World Series to decide whether to exercise their half of Braden Looper’s $6.5 million mutual option and whether to pick up reliever David Weathers’ $3.7 million club option.

Looper, who led the team with 14 wins and tied for the National League with 34 starts but ran up a 5.22 ERA and led the Major Leagues by allowing 39 home runs, is a particularly interesting case. The Brewers would have to pay a $1 million buyout if they declined his option. 

In August it seemed a foregone conclusion that the Brewers, who are short on pitching prospects at the top levels of the Minor Leagues, would bring Looper back. But a high-ranking club official indicated during the final week of the season that Looper’s future with the team was now up for debate. He went 5-2 in September/October but posted a 6.58 ERA and a .349 opponents’ average. With general manager Doug Melvin intent on bringing in two new starters — his stated goal last month — and the Brewers’ four other ’09 starters under contract for 2010, Looper could conceivably be one of the odd men out. 

If the Brewers decline Weathers’ option, they owe him a $400,000 buyout. 

Among the players already eligible for free agency, Cameron, Counsell, Kendall and Vargas are the likely priorities. Lopez was excellent after a July trade from Arizona to Milwaukee — .with a 320 batting average and a .407 on-base percentage in 297 plate appearances — but Melvin made it clear that he is committed to Rickie Weeks at second base. If that’s the case, it appears the Brewers don’t have a spot for Lopez. 

Also on Thursday, the Brewers learned that Cameron, Kendall and Lopez all qualified as Type B players in the Elias Sports Bureau’s ranking system and that Looper and Weathers would also rank as Type Bs should they reach free agency.

That system considers a player’s last two seasons of statistical output and is used to determine which free agents are eligible for Draft compensation. In order to qualify, a free agent must be offered arbitration by his former team, but decline the offer and then sign elsewhere.

The former club of a Type A free agent receives the player’s new team’s first- or second-round pick in next year’s First-Year Player Draft, depending on where that team finished in the standings, plus a “sandwich pick” between the first- and second rounds.  The former club of a Type B free agent receives only the sandwich pick.
Lopez.jpgLopez was one spot shy of qualifying as a Type A player. National League second baseman, shortstops and third basemen are grouped together by Elias, and Lopez was the first Type B, with a rating of 71.889. Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla was the final Type A, at 72.350.

For more on the Brewers’ free agent-eligibles, see my story on

Of the players in question, who would you like to see back? Who should the Brewers let go?


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Vargas in the fold for Game 2 of Brewers-Pads

Claudio Vargas re-joined the Brewers on Saturday, a day after he was traded back to Milwaukee in a deal with the Dodgers. He was surprised to learn he had been traded.

“Yeah, especially here,” said Vargas, who was released by the Brewers 16 months ago.

There’s no immediate plan to stretch Vargas out as a starter, so he’ll simply join the bullpen mix tonight against San Diego. Here’s the lineup, with the surging Corey Hart (.342 over his last 21 games including a seven-game hitting streak) moved up in the order:

Felipe Lopez  2B
Corey Hart  RF
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Casey McGehee  3B
Mike Cameron  CF
J.J. Hardy  SS
Jason Kendall  C
Mike Burns  RHP

Rottino: 'No hard feelings'

Longtime Brewers farmhand Vinny Rottino got a fresh start on Friday when he was traded to the Dodgers for pitcher Claudio Vargas.

Rottino, 29, was exceedingly popular among Brewers fans because he grew up just south of Milwaukee in Racine, Wis. and rose from an undrafted free agent to legitimate prospect status in 2004, when he broke Prince Fielder’s organizational record with 124 RBIs at Class A Beloit. Two years later, Rottino batted .314 at Triple-A Nashville and earned the first of three late-season promotions to the big leagues.

In all, Rottino appeared in 18 games for the Brewers and batted .208 (5-for-24). His biggest hit came in the penultimate game of the 2007 season, when Rottino grounded an 11th-inning single that capped a come-from-behind win over the Padres and guaranteed Milwaukee’s first winning season in 15 years.

But Rottino was subsequently passed by other Brewers prospects. He was removed from the 40-man roster this spring and opted for an assignment to Double-A Huntsville so he could get regular playing time away from Triple-A catching prospect Angel Salome and third base prospect Mat Gamel. In 98 games this season, Rottino batted .249 with four home runs and 48 RBIs.

“I’m excited,” said Rottino, who received a “really nice” call from Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash informing him of the trade. “I certainly didn’t expect to be traded, but it’s an opportunity for me to get back to the big leagues, for sure.

“I feel like I’m a guy who can play multiple positions, especially catcher, and that’s always going to mean an opportunity. It’s going to be a matter of me being in the right place at the right time, playing well and then getting the opportunity. I’m never going to have the attitude, as long as I have a uniform in this game, that making it to the big leagues is not a possibility. Now that’s going to be with the Dodgers.”

He didn’t know much about the Dodgers, but said, “They obviously want me, because they traded away a guy who pitched in the big leagues for them.”

Any hard feelings toward the Brewers?

“I will always have an allegiance to the Brewers,” Rottino said. “After my 10-year big league career is over, I’d love to stay in the game with the Brewers. No hard feelings, whatsoever.” 

Rottino will report to the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate in Chattanooga, Tenn.

I know there are a lot of Brewers fans out there who think Rottino should have been given a better shot in Milwaukee. Are you happy for him today?